“My people have been lost sheep.
Their shepherds have led them astray
and turned them loose in the mountains.
They have lost their way
and can’t remember how to get back to the sheepfold.
All who found them devoured them.
Their enemies said, ‘
We did nothing wrong in attacking them,
for they sinned against the Lord,
their true place of rest,
and the hope of their ancestors.’”
In this passage from the prophet Jeremiah, verse 6 well describes generational trauma, and verse 7 helps explain how society, through various structures such as media, education, and religion, can normalize abuse and neglect, through the dehumanizing and blaming of the victims. In biblical days, justice was served by retribution, but when Jesus came, he offered a revolutionary way to live – to forgive.
What does it mean to forgive? I’ve been contemplating much about forgiveness, and what that looks like. My favourite understanding is to loosen the contempt in one’s heart. When I think about forgiveness, there seems to be different degrees of loosening. Sometimes it’s easy, and I can just accept a circumstance and walk away from it. Other times, it ties directly into my trauma and it’s not as easy to just move on from those offences.
Dr. Charles Stanley teaches that to have peace means to be tethered to God. This was a fascinating concept to me, and I went to the dictionary to confirm this. Lo and behold, the root word of peace is “pact”. When I am connected to a power greater than myself, greater in this case for attributes such as grace, understanding, compassion, humility, love, and forgiveness, I can better muster the courage and strength to encompass those traits myself.
When I am connected to God, for me that is through the person of Jesus as understood through a biblical worldview, I am better able to remove myself from the trauma-based victimhood that I seem to inherently come from, and can transcend to look for ways in which my offender might be suffering, and how that could be connected to their behaviour. It is in that space where I am safe to seek compassion and reconciliation, because I am tied directly to God, channeling that power of forgiveness.
It might take days, weeks, months, it might take a lot of prayer and meditation, and it might take the processing of very destructive thinking that wishes for retribution over forgiveness, but there has not yet come a situation where I cannot find the grace to immediately take a step back, find solace in God, and not do any harm back.
If I want to have real peace, for me that means to have courage, purpose, community, and expansion, I must learn to forgive, in every circumstance. I have found that God will offer me refuge to sort out the hurt, but I must seek to calm the storm within, and resist the temptation for payback. This is the only way to truly make a change for the better in my own life, and to be the change I want to see in the world overall.